Al Jefferson had 23 points and 14 rebounds, and the Charlotte Hornets withstood Boston’s fourth-quarter rally and beat the Celtics 96-87 on Wednesday night.
Kemba Walker added 18 points and Lance Stephenson had 13 for the Hornets, who led by 12 points in the third quarter and were up 87-79 with 8:05 left.
However, the Celtics — led by Marcus Thornton’s 13 fourth-quarter points — pulled to 87-85 with 4:31 remaining. But Walker’s three-point play and back-to-back baskets by Jefferson pushed Charlotte’s lead to 94-85 with 1:19 left.
Rajon Rondo had a triple-double with 12 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists for the Celtics. Jeff Green and Thornton led Boston with 16 points each, Tyler Zeller scored 13 and Brandon Bass 10.
Charlotte trailed by five points at halftime before opening the third quarter with an 11-4 run. Gerald Henderson hit a jumper to tie the score at 49 with 8:37 left, and his 3-pointer with 7:37 left put the Hornets ahead to stay at 54-51.
Charlotte took its biggest lead of the game late in the third quarter, with Walker’s jumper with 1:38 remaining capping a 17-8 run for a 71-59 advantage.
Tyler Zeller scored nine points and Green, Rondo and Kelly Olynyk had eight each, the Celtics fought back from an eight-point deficit early in the second quarter to lead 45-40 at the break.
The Hornets led 26-18 on Gary Neal’s jumper with 11:02 left in the second quarter — when Boston began its comeback with a 20-4 run over the next 8 minutes.
Jared Sullinger tied the score at 32-32 on a 3-pointer with 5:22 left, and Rondo’s jumper with 4:29 remaining gave the Celtics their biggest lead of the half, 38-32.
Charlotte managed to cut Boston’s lead to 43-40 when Walker hit two free throws with 48.9 seconds left. But Gerald Henderson missed a 3-pointer with 22.9 seconds remaining, and Rondo followed with a jumper to push the Celtics’ lead back to five points at the half.
Celtics: Boston shot 21.7 percent from 3-point range, making just 5 of 23 attempts. However, that wasn’t a season low for the Celtics — they made just 1 of 25 against Houston (4.0 percent) on Nov. 1.
Hornets: Forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who had missed the last 12 games with a stress reaction in his right foot, finished with nine points and six rebounds in 18 minutes Wednesday.
Celtics: Host New York on Friday.
Hornets: At Memphis on Friday.